The Purrrsuit of Happiness
By Debbie Glovatsky
This article originally appeared in Hamptons Pet magazine.
Falling in love with Waffles, the therapy cat in training.
Late one night while browsing Petfinder.com, I immediately fell in love with a tiny, orange kitten. The next day, I could not get to the shelter fast enough to scoop up this furry bundle of joy, who I dubbed “Waffles.”
Full of personality, this brave, fun-seeking missile of a kitten showed me early on that he had an enormous capacity to love and be loved. His optimistic curiosity is infectious. He loves people and people love Waffles.
I had heard about therapy animals and what a positive impact they can have on people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I could not shake the thought of what it would be like to not only have to say goodbye to your home, belongings and independence, but quite possibly to your beloved pet. Maybe, just maybe, Waffles could bring a smile to the face of someone missing their cat.
As a therapy cat in training, Waffles visits a local nursing facility, sharing his feline charm with residents and staff. Just a glimpse of him rolling through the hallways in his signature Waffle Wagon elicits double takes and leaves everyone smiling. With a lineup of lady friends who adore entertaining him in their rooms, he often stops off for one-on-one visits.
By just being there and letting someone pet him, Waffles connects with residents in ways that many people cannot. Their eyes light up as they fondly remember the cats they once had, reliving cherished memories and sharing stories. One resident had lost her ability to see or speak. Knowing of her love for cats, the staff placed her hand gently on Waffles’ head so she could feel his fur and pet him. Though her eyes could not longer see, they lit up like stars.
Waffles has just a few supervised visits left before he earns his certification through Love on a Leash, the Foundation for Pet Provided Therapy. As a therapy team, it is all about trust. It is my job to watch for his cues and know when it’s time to rest, allowing him to do his job of sharing his unconditional love. Relying on me to keep him comfortable and safe has created a very special bond between us. The stronger our bond, the more confidence Waffles has as a therapy cat and the more smiles he spreads.